The prevalence of traumatic stress in the lives of families experiencing homelessness is extraordinarily high. Often these families have experienced on-going trauma throughout their lives in the form of childhood abuse and neglect, domestic violence, community violence, and the trauma associated with poverty and the loss of home, safety and sense of security. These experiences have a significant impact on how people think, feel, behave, relate to others, and cope with future experiences. Families have learned to adapt to these traumatic circumstances in order to survive, but their ways of coping may seem confusing and out-of-place in their current circumstances.
Given the high rates of traumatic exposure among families who are homeless, it has become clear that understanding trauma and its impact is essential to providing quality care in shelters and housing programs. This realization has lead to the suggestion that programs serving trauma survivors adapt their services to account for their clients’ traumatic experiences, that is, they become “trauma-informed”. In order to respond empathically to the needs of trauma survivors, ensure their physical and emotional safety, develop realistic treatment goals, and at the very least avoid re-traumatization, all practices and programming must be provided through the lens of trauma.
With support from the Daniels Fund, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, the Homelessness Resource Center, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the National Center on Family Homelessness (NCFH) has created the Trauma-Informed Organizational Toolkit to provide programs with a roadmap for becoming trauma-informed. The Toolkit offers homeless service providers with concrete guidelines for how to modify their practices and policies to ensure that they are responding appropriately to the needs of families who have experienced traumatic stress. The Trauma-Informed Organizational Toolkit includes:
- The Trauma-Informed Organizational Self-Assessment. The Self-Assessment is designed to help programs evaluate their practices and based on their findings, adapt their programming to support recovery and healing among their clients.
- A User’s Guide. The User’s Guide is designed to assist programs in implementing the Self-Assessment and contains additional information about this assessment tool and what it means to provide trauma-informed care.
- A How-To Manual for Creating Organizational Change. The Manual identifies concrete steps that organizations can take if they are interested in becoming trauma-informed. These steps include the use of the Self-Assessment and User’s Guide to begin this process.(authors)